Lanning, Haynes and late order batting save the day for Australia after early hiccup on Day One
Meg Lanning and Rachael Haynes © Getty Images
A century stand between Meg Lanning and Rachael Haynes rescued Australia on day one after the hosts were reduced to 43 for 3 in the Ashes Test at the Manuka Oval in Canberra on Thursday (January 27). England were pegging away with wickets from time to time but Australia held their own ending the day on 327 for 7, on the back of late fifties from Ashleigh Gardner and Tahlia McGrath. For the visitors, Natalie Sciver and Katherine Brunt were the pick of the bowlers with three wickets each.
Earlier in the day, England captain Heather Knight won the toss and elected to field first. Given the history of tosses in Test cricket in Australia, it was a brave call but fast-bowlers responded. Brunt got rid off Alyssa Healy for a duck in her second over of the day. She tempted the Aussie opener with a full-ish delivery and Healy went for the drive, but the bit of movement ensured a faint edge was caught on the way to the wicketkeeper Amy Jones as she was dismissed for a duck.
Beth Mooney lasted only three deliveries for her three runs, falling to Anya Shrubsole, who gave the ball a lot of air and swung it away from the southpaw. Mooney went for a drive, but only managed to edge it to Jones. After the fourth over, Australia were in all sorts of trouble with the score being 4 for 2. Rachael Haynes was joined by Ellyse Perry in the middle as the duo looked to rebuild the innings.
Haynes got into the act hitting a four each off Shrubsole and Brunt. She further hit two fours of Brunt while Perry managed to hit three fours off Kate Cross on the off-side. But, the sudden shift in momentum forced Knight to bring in Sciver. Ahead of the game, there were some discussions around the all-rounder battle between Sciver and Perry, but on Thursday, it was the England player who had an edge. She bowled a short ball which Perry tried to pull with not a lot of control and top-edged it as Jones picked her third catch of the morning. Perry fell for 18.
At this point, Australia were 43 for three with the ball still doing a fair bit. Lanning joined Haynes, who by then was set enough. The duo survived some close calls and good bowling by the England pace unit in the next hour, but managed to survive much of that. With one over to go before lunch, Knight introduced Sophie Ecclestone. The left-arm spinner got one to turn slightly from the surface and produce an edge of Lanning, but the England skipper dropped the catch in the slips. Australia went into lunch with a score of 79 for three.
Post lunch, Haynes got a lifeline as she was dropped by Sciver at second slip off the bowling of Brunt. After this moment, the Australia batters went for a bit of attacking cricket, taking on the England bowlers a bit more often. Haynes reached her third Test fifty in the 39th over after hitting a boundary off Sciver.
Lanning, on the other hand, seemed to get over the early struggles and show her usual grace, consistently scoring runs through the off-side. With the partnership getting bigger, the England bowlers started to look a bit flat and so did the surface. As the ball got older, the swing which was getting the hosts in trouble almost disappeared, making batting quite easy. The second hour of the post-lunch session saw some comprehensive display of batting by Haynes and Lanning. Their stand had safety written all over it as Australia walked into tea with a score of 199 for three.
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After the tea break, the pair continued on their merry-way in the quest of their maiden Test centuries. But as Lanning was inching closer to the magical figure, Sciver got one to swing away from her. The right-handed batter went in with hard hands at it but only managed to edge to Knight, who had some relief having previously dropped Lanning on 15. However, her counterpart had scored 93 by then with 13 fours. The breakthrough also brought an end to the stand of 169 runs.
In the very next over, Brunt bowled a wobble seam delivery which was just too good for Haynes, who managed to only get an edge to the keeper and was dismissed for 86. The two successive wickets had brought England back in the game, but Ashleigh Gardner and Tahlia McGrath joined hands to steady the ship for the hosts.
Gardner let her intentions know from the very word go as she pulled Sciver for a six over the mid-wicket boundary and then drove her straight down the ground for a four. She displayed an attacking game play which once again pushed the visitors on the backfoot. England deployed a slightly questionable tactic of sticking to two spinners, Ecclestone and debutante Charlie Dean from both ends despite having an option of taking the new ball.
Knight finally took the new ball after the 84th over, but by then the sixth wicket stand was already in excess of fifty runs. Gardner soon brought up her second Test fifty with a cover drive off Brunt. A few overs later, McGrath was given out by the on-field LBW, but survived with a DRS. However, Gardner was not that lucky as she received an inswinging delivery from Brunt with the new ball and failed to get the bat on the ball on time. She was dismissed 56 runs from 74 balls with eight fours and a six. That also brought an end to the stand of 84 runs between her and McGrath.
As Annabel Sutherland joined McGrath in the last hour of the day, as the latter took on the role of the aggressor leading the charge on the opposition. In the 94th over, she hit three boundaries off an over by Kate Cross. A couple of overs later, she reached her maiden Test fifty after surviving a second drop chance. But her luck soon ran out, as she went for an exquisite drive off Sciver’s last over of the day and ended up edging it to the keeper, Jones, who completed her fifth catch, dismissing McGrath for 52. Sutherland, on the other end stayed unbeaten on seven runs as Australia ended the day on 327 for seven.
Australia 327 for 7 (Meg Lanning 93, Rachael Haynes 86; Natalie Sciver 3 for 41, Katherine Brunt 3 for 52) at Stumps on Day One.